The City of Yellowknife is seeking land from the territorial government to expand the dump and the Fiddler’s Lake lagoon sewage treatment facility.
On Monday, councillors are expected to approve two bylaws authorizing the city to acquire vacant commissioner’s land adjacent to the solid waste facility and Trappers Lake.
The territorial government must then go through a consultation process before the land can be transferred to the city for municipal use.
“A lot of land actually in the city boundaries is owned by the GWNT and so we’ve prioritized what parcels of land we’d like them to focus on first,” Mayor Rebecca Alty told Cabin Radio. “We would like all the land transferred, but recognize that’s a big process and could take a couple years.”
There are other parcels of territorially owned land within city boundaries that councillors have identified as priority areas, Alty said, including two parcels on Gitzel Street that could be turned into residential lots.
The mayor feels it’s important for the city to own land within municipal boundaries for economic development and to deliver municipal services. She noted, however, the process to transfer commissioner’s land to the city is “cumbersome” and involves lots of “red tape.”
The GNWT consultation process can take from a few months to a few years.
“For a business, they’re going to say, ‘Meh, forget about it, I’ll go to Whitehorse. I’ll go here, I’ll go there. I’m not interested in doing business in Yellowknife.’ So there’s those lost opportunities when we have this cumbersome process of the city always having to go ask for a parcel,” Alty said.
‘Shocking isn’t even the right word’
Councillor Niels Konge echoed those concerns during a discussion on the proposed bylaws last week.
“It’s so frustrating to be in my business and have people come to me – on almost a weekly basis – trying to get a hold of land where they can establish themselves. The missed opportunities are in the millions of dollars every week,” he said.
“Shocking isn’t even the right word, how this stifles us a community, how this stifles us as a territory – just the lost economic development not only for the city but also for the GNWT, that they’re losing because of these archaic land practices they currently have.”
City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett told councillors the city had pushed hard for the transfer of vacant commissioner’s land before the last territorial election, in 2019.
“We have really heard loud and clear from council how important this is,” she said.
Bassi-Kellett said city administration is working with the NWT’s Department of Lands to develop a process for the transfer of land within municipal boundaries.
The Akaitcho Process affects which parcels of commissioner’s land the city will request. The city says it has notified the Yellowknives Dene First Nation about land it has identified as a priority and has received a “thumbs up.”
Part of the current territorial government’s mandate includes developing a guide for the transfer of lands within municipal boundaries, as part of its aim to reduce the municipal funding gap.
According to a representative from the NWT Department of Lands, it has received applications for specific parcels for transfer from the City of Yellowknife and is working to “complete due diligence on those, including consultation.”
The department is also discussing defining a process to transfer larger tracts of land within the city boundary, which will require consultation with affected Indigenous governments prior to any transfer.
The spokesperson said all discussions are confidential.
Correction: August 24, 2020 – 10:02 MT. Due to an editing error, this article initially suggested the bylaws in question were approved last Monday. In fact, they are expected to be approved on Monday, August 24.